Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

by | Jun 16, 2024 | Homilies

St. Martha Prayer

Your faith led Jesus to proclaim, “I am the resurrection and the life.”

Your unwavering belief allowed you to see beyond His humanity when you cried out,

“Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

With firm hope, you declared, “I know that God will give you whatever you ask of Him,”

and Jesus called your brother Lazarus back from the dead.

With pure love for Jesus, you welcomed Him into your home.

Friend and servant of our Savior, I too am “troubled about many things.”

Pray for me that I may grow in faith, hope, and love,

and that Jesus, who sat at your table, will hear me and grant me

a place at the banquet of eternal life. Amen.

When Sebastian Salgado was growing up in the Minas Gerais section of Brazil, he lived in a lush, tropical forest thriving with all types of vegetation and wild animals. He spent much of his youth exploring the jungle with his friends. Over those years, he developed a real love for the areas he used to play in as a child.

In the years that followed, his work as a photographer gave him the opportunity to travel the world. He published several books and won many awards. However, going to war-torn areas and witnessing first-hand so many violent events left him physically exhausted and emotionally drained. For the sake of his health, he and his wife decided to return to Brazil.

When he arrived, he was stunned by what he saw. The dense jungle he used to play in as a child had been completely destroyed. In the short time that he had been away, companies had cut down all the trees and taken the wood to be used in construction projects throughout the country. With the removal of the trees, the rest of the plants died and the wild life that once thrived there left with it. Where there was abundant life, there was nothing but stones and dust.

Sebastian’s wife then had an idea. She said that they should try to grow the forest back again by planting trees. Such a large area had been devastated that it seemed impossible to bring it back to life again, but they couldn’t allow the land to remain lifeless. So they did what they could, bringing in soil and planting saplings. Soon, others joined them. To promote their work and raise funds for the massive project, they started the Instituto Terra. In the years that followed, they planted over 4 million trees.

As a result of their efforts over 20 years, the forest has come back to life. Not only are plants and trees growing, but wild animals have returned. The Instituto Terra estimates that some 172 types of birds now call that area their home along with 33 species of mammals, 293 types of plants, and 15 species of reptiles. Because of their humble efforts and their persistence, they were able to restore the jungle to its former glory.

When we look at the state of the Church today, we might feel as stunned as Sebastian Salgado and his wife did when they saw how devastated the forest of Minas Gerais was. It might not seem to be the same growing, vibrant Church that we remember from our youth. Where Masses were once standing room only, we see rows of empty pews. We know that something has to be done, but we’re not sure what to do or where to start. We fear that anything we do will be too little too late.

That is when the parables in today’s gospel speak so strongly to us. What Sebastian Salgado and his wife were able to do for the forests of Brazil, Jesus wants us to do for His Church. Jesus shows us how.

First of all, He calls us to start small. Just as Sebastian Salgado and his wife started by planting saplings, Jesus calls us to plant seeds.
Sometimes, the needs of our Church seem so large that we think there’s nothing we can do. Our efforts just seem so small. In the face of all the pain and suffering around us, we can ask ourselves, “what’s the use?” That is when Jesus gives us the example of the mustard seed. It seems so small but carries so much life within it. Just so, our small efforts, when they are done with love, can have huge effects. Even if we only feed one person, that is at least someone who won’t go hungry that day. Maybe that person will be so moved by our love that she will turn around and help someone else. There is no telling the ripple effects our actions will have. One thing is sure, however. If we do nothing because we are afraid or think we have nothing to offer, then nothing will change. So Jesus is challenging us to start small.

Secondly, Jesus is calling us to trust that He will give growth to the small seeds we plant. That is the point of His first parable today. Once the farmer puts the seed in the ground, it grows by its own power. Just so, God will put His power behind whatever we do out of love. It is true that the needs of our Church and our world are great, but we are not starting from scratch. We are building on a work that Jesus has already begun and that the Holy Spirit is bringing to completion.

That is why, in today’s second reading, Saint Paul tells us to “…walk by faith, not by sight.” As Christians, we don’t measure success the way the world does. The world relies on numbers and dollar signs. However, as followers of Jesus, we measure success by how faithfully we do God’s will. If we are saying “yes” to everything that God is calling us to, we will be successful. Just as the seed grows secretly underground, so God’s plan is working itself out in the world in hidden but powerful ways. If we do our part, no matter how small and insignificant it may seem, good will come of it.

Finally, Jesus is calling us to be welcoming. The Church is that mustard tree that, since the death and resurrection of Jesus, has become the largest of plants giving shelter to every type of person. The Church is meant to be a home for every person on this planet without exception. There is no one who is not called to be baptized into this Church and to be part of its mission. It is up to each of us to invite family, friends, and even strangers to join us in this great adventure. Like the seed, it means reaching out to one person at a time, letting them know that they are important to us, and that we are not all that we can be without them. If we are to grow as a Church then there is no other way to do it than reaching out, befriending people, and inviting them to find their home in the branches of this great Church planted by Jesus Christ.

Because we believe in Jesus Christ, we are people of hope. As pressing as the problems of our world and Church are, we have everything we need to resolve them because we have the Spirit of Jesus dwelling within us. It is time for us to stop worrying and to start working. If we start small, trust in God’s power working through us, and reach out to others miracles can happen. We can start to see signs of life sprout up all around us. And the world and Church can be renewed.

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